The announcement that the Dunedin Blue Jays will play their “A” league season home games at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium while their own stadium is being remodeled prompted Steve Cooper and me to pay a visit to the Phils’ former spring stomping grounds in Clearwater yesterday. In its heyday, Jack Russell was a gorgeous, intimate place to watch aspiring major leaguers and those already in the show on their field of dreams.
Here’s a view of the old stadium ticket window and entrance, courtesy of littleballparks.com, as I recall first encountering it in 1993.
Here was the view from behind home plate as it was then:
The views quite different now, with the distinctive Hooters sign gone from its perch above the left field wall, but the beautiful batters eye in center field still in place flanked by a new electronic score board.
Here’s a quick video survey of the current interior of the field.
Found a ball in foul condition down the muddied left field line that served as a nice prop, leaving Coop and me to wonder if this was Iowa after all.
Here’s a view inside the dugout on the 3rd base side, bat racks still in place.
And the view from the 3rd base side over toward right field with the old red-trimmed home clubhouse still in the background.
Here’s a similar view of the original clubhouse back in the day, and I had forgotten that the Hooters VIP Diamond Dugout (beyond first base in those days) originated with Jack Russell!
Here’s a cute fact about the old Jack Russell Stadium from baseballpilgrimages.com: “During the Clearwater Phillies inaugural season the stadium’s organist, Wilbur Snapp, was thrown out of a game for playing ‘Three Blind Mice’ after a close call at first base went against the home team. His ejection on June 26, 1985 marked the only time in baseball history that an umpire ejected an organist.”
But the pièce de résistance of the refurbishment so far is the new monument walkway behind home plate. Monument row was dedicated last March to commemorate some of the great ballplayers who graced the field at Jack Russell. If you come to Clearwater, it’s worth a visit.
Uh-oh! Just noticed a typo on the Stadium History plaque that will need to be fixed. Can you spot the error?
That’s right. The final game of spring training couldn’t have been May 28, 2003. On that date the Phils were playing the Mets at Veterans Stadium, so I’m sure it was March 28. But everything else appears to be factual. 😉